The Story of Ferdinand written by Munro Leaf and illustrated by Robert Lawson celebrated its 75th anniversary last year and has certainly earned the qualification of an oldie but a goodie! It tells the story of a little bull named Ferdinand who has no interest in doing the things that little bulls are supposed to do. His mother worries about him until she realizes that he really is happy being by himself.
Over time, Ferdinand grows into a big, strapping bull, but he still maintains his mild demeanor and likes to sit under his favorite tree and smell the flowers. All of the other bulls want to be picked to fight in the bull fights in Madrid and spend their time practicing running and jumping and butting their heads together, but Ferdinand has absolutely no interest. When the men come to pick a bull to fight, Ferdinand wanders off, completely uninterested. Everything would have ended there, except that Ferdinand sits on a bee! Snorting and stomping, his reaction to getting stung is exactly what the men are looking for in a ferocious bull. Thinking Ferdinand is the most ferocious bull in the herd, they pack him up and cart him off to Madrid, where true to form Ferdinand follows his own heart and enjoys the flowers. The illustrations are excellent and do a very good job of capturing the mood and the attitudes of those involved in the story, from Ferdinand’s shock at being stung to the fear of the Banderilleros and Picadores at facing this ferocious bull in the ring.
Madrid offers a great walking tour aimed at children with treasure hunts and engaging discussions of the historic context of the city and explanations of the many statues and sights. It’s also worth paying a visit to the Palacio Real de Madrid which has a great armory and is widely considered one of the most beautiful palaces in Europe. The Madrid Railway Museum offers trains to climb on and a working mini steam engine and you can take a trip on the strawberry train which follows the old Madrid to Aranjuez rail route. Madrid is filled with museums and cultural sights to be explored and would not be complete without a visit to the Prado. You can design your own treasure hunt at the Prado, looking online to see what is currently on display and having your children try to find particular pictures. In keeping with Ferdinand, start with Goya’s equestrian portrait of a “Picador on Horseback.”